The election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to the White House brings the exciting prospect of an increased voice for educators and the expectation that federal public education policy will be driven by experienced educators.
In NEA member Dr. Jill Biden, America will have a career educator as First Lady who plans to continue working at Northern Virginia Community College. “Teaching isn’t just what she does—it’s who she is,” President-elect Biden said in a victory speech after being declared the winner of the presidential race. “For America’s educators, this is a great day: You’re going to have one of your own in the White House.”
The president-elect has chosen Linda Darling-Hammond, president and CEO of the Learning Policy Institute and president of the California State Board of Education, to lead the Education
Department transition team. Dr. Darling-Hammond has Maryland connections as well, writing a letter of support in 2017 for the Protect Our Schools Act, legislation that MSEA successfully championed to reduce the focus on standardized testing in school accountability and increase educator voice in school improvement policies.
Dr. Darling-Hammond’s influential research and policy work has centered on achieving equitable and empowering education through meaningful learning, educator quality, and adequate resources. “Dr. Darling-Hammond is an educator and leader on the issues we care about, whose work is held in great regard—for example, the Kirwan Commission referred to her work when writing the historic Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. It’s very promising that she is leading this transition,” said MSEA President Cheryl Bost.
Educators are eager to see the fulfillment of one of President-elect Biden’s campaign promises of selecting a secretary of education who has been a public school teacher. “After the reckless years of Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos, I am confident we will have the skilled, experienced, and compassionate educators we need leading education policy in Washington,” said Bost.
Biden ran on an education platform that promises to increase the number of school psychologists, counselors, nurses, and social workers, fund universal pre-k for three- and four-year-olds, make community college free, address student debt, and increase Pell grants to help low-income students. He has also endorsed billions of dollars in education-related coronavirus relief to assist with the safe and sustainable reopening of school buildings, including reduced class sizes, ventilation systems, and more.
The incoming administration also plans to quickly undo many of Betsy DeVos’ unconscionable actions, including restoring protections for transgender students, affirmative action in college admissions, and reinstating guidance on school discipline policies.